February 15, 2010

Symposium will focus on U.S.-Cuban relations

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- One of the nation’s leading experts on Cuba will speak during a symposium at Southern Illinois University Carbondale that will focus on the future of relations between the two nations.

Fulton T. Armstrong, a senior professional staff member on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, will present his thoughts at 9 a.m. Feb. 22 in the Student Center Ballroom B.

Armstrong’s presentation is part of a symposium on “U.S.-Cuban Relations: Warming Up or Cooling Down?”

The event, sponsored by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, will also include a panel discussion on the issues facing relations between the two countries, and a discussion on pitfalls and opportunities for both the Southern Illinois University system and Illinois in dealing with Cuba.

Al Romero, dean of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s College of Arts and Sciences, will discuss the potential of an SIU system-Cuban Caribbean Center.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to cover the symposium. For more information, contact Matt Baughman, associate institute director, at 618/201-0082.

David Yepsen, institute director, said Armstrong is a “respected expert on Cuba and his insights will prove useful to everyone.”

A working luncheon is free and open to the public, but advance registration is required for meal considerations. To register, contact institute project coordinator Christina Rich at 618/453-4078 or by email at clrich@siu.edu by Thursday, Feb. 18. Open seating will be available for those who wish to only listen to the speech and not be included in the meal.

“Cuba is important because of the economic, academic and cultural opportunities there,” Yepsen said, noting that U.S.-Cuba relations “chilled” after the end of the Clinton administration.

“With a new administration in Washington and new leadership in Cuba, there are now some signs of improvement so I want to review where things now stand,” he said. “I also want to look at what opportunities might exist for SIU and the Southern Illinois community. There’s something to be said for just focusing a little attention on the country because U.S.-Cuban relations often are eclipsed by other news.”

A staff member with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee since July 2008, Armstrong is the committee’s Western Hemisphere specialist, and he works closely with the committee’s investigations team, according to his biography.

Armstrong spent 24 years working in a series of policy and analytical posts within the U.S. government’s executive branch prior to joining to the committee’s staff. Armstrong’s work includes serving as an intelligence collector, an analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency, a U.S. Department of State political officer, national intelligence officer for Latin America -- the U.S. intelligence community’s most senior analyst, and as adviser to President Clinton on Cuba and Latin America.

Armstrong also worked for former U.S. Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa, for four years.

Institute founder and former U.S. Sen. Paul Simon was among a group of University and other Southern Illinois officials to visit Cuba in early 2001. Simon visited with Cuban President Fidel Castro, and was a strong proponent of easing the long-standing economic embargo with that country.

Lee A. Stewart, an SIUC honors student in political science from Dowell, will also participate in the conference. He is a student researcher at the institute and has spent the last several months working on this project, said Matt Baughman, associate institute director.

The symposium schedule is:

  • 9 a.m. -- Welcome and introduction, David Yepsen, director, Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.
  • 9:10 a.m. -- Fulton T. Armstrong, U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee senior staff member on Cuba.
  • 10:30 a.m. -- Potential of an SIU Cuban-Caribbean Center, Al Romero, dean, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville College of Arts and Sciences.
  • 11:15 a.m. -- Panel discussion: “National Issues Facing U.S.-Cuban Relations,” John S. Jackson, visiting professor, Paul Simon Public Policy Institute will serve as moderator. Panelists are Cindy Galway Buys, associate professor, SIU School of Law; Calvin Jarrell, professor, SIUE Department of Theater and Dance; Doug Farquhar, National Conference of State Legislators; Fulton Armstrong; and Mizanur R. Miah, director, SIUC School of Social Work.
  • 12:15 p.m. -- Break for working lunch.
  • 12:45 p.m. -- “Panel discussion: Illinois/SIU Issues, Pitfalls and Opportunities.” Paul D. Sarvela, SIU vice president for academic affairs, will serve as moderator. Panelists are Larry H. Dietz, SIUC vice chancellor for student affairs; John Davey, professor, SIUC School of Architecture; Ross D. Silverman, professor, SIU School of Medicine; Todd A. Winters, associate dean and acting chief operating officer, SIUC College of Agricultural Sciences; and Al Romero.
  • 1:45 p.m. – Concluding remarks.